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Aidan Baker, "Liminoid/Lifeforms"

cover imageUnlike previous solo efforts, here Baker is flanked by a concentrated orchestra, propelling his demur drones into consonant and complete compositions. The result is an album of staggering growth as Baker explores the elegant side of drone and the filth of classical percussion and strings that not only established Baker as an innovator but as a inventive curator of drone and its many variants.


Aidan Baker - Liminoid / Lifeforms

Above all else, Liminoid/Lifeforms is a definitive statement. Baker clearly states his objective with the first few notes of “Liminoid Part I,” never wavering from his desire to capture the elements of classical and romantic composition with modern techniques. The result is an album that is warm; thick with texture and sonic craftsmanship. Albums with this much attention to detail often crumble under the weight of expectation but Baker has nothing to atone for once the final note of “Lifeforms” fades into the abyss.

The greatest accomplishment of Baker’s foray into the classical is in its simplicity. Much like the great masters of composition, Baker is never afraid to do too much by doing too little. Each of the four parts that comprise “Liminoid” joins seamlessly. Not until the soaring vocals of “Liminoid (Part IV)” can we begin to notice how Baker has carefully flirted with the grandiose by indulging it so completely. The subtle hints of cello and violin coupled with the restrained guitars and percussion are slow to reveal themselves as something more than Baker’s usual fare. “Liminoid (Part IV)” becomes the unveiling of Baker’s masterpiece; when the quiet decoration that has been painstakingly built for 22-minutes engulfs the classical philosophy in a fiery pillar of modern ingenuity. In spite of its ambitious nature, the whole of “Liminoid” does not falter for even a single note. This is proof that experimental music can be manipulated using the principles of Romanticism without compromising the chaos theory and fringe accessibility that has found deep roots in various genres.

After the breathtaking beauty of “Liminoid,” Baker risks toppling his opus with the sedentary drone of “Lifeforms.” Yet the risk is well worth it, providing the perfect counterpoint to elegance of “Liminoid” while also proving to be its mirror—albeit of the warped, funhouse variety. Where “Liminoid” was poised and polite, “Lifeforms” is a test of patience and will. It maintains the grace of its segmented lead-in but the restraint of “Liminoid” is replaced with rambunctiousness. “Lifeforms” isn’t abrasive but a piece built on dissonance and misplacement. Its parts, unlike “Liminoid,” are those of worn jigsaw puzzles; connections don’t fit as they should, the tabs are frayed beyond recognition, and there are holes from missing pieces. In this there is a majesty that admirers of “The Ugly Duckling” (and its ilk) will appreciate. “Lifeforms,” when held against “Liminoid,” will seem the tremorring visage; but as a mirror and a companion, it divulges the secrets of success found within “Liminoid,” while annihilating the measuring stick of beauty used for far too long.

The labeling of Liminoid/Lifeforms as a high form of art may be a bit of hyperbole but within Aidan Baker’s classical excursion, there are far too many gems of old and new to call it anything else. Over the course of one hour, Baker builds a sturdy bridge over a crevice that once relied on the likes of John Cage and Terry Riley as its architects. Old world beauty and futuristic tones can work as one, creating music that is as challenging as it is universal.



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Out Hud and !!!

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Review of the Day

Désormais, "Iambrokenandremadeiambroken..."
Mitchell Akiyama and Tony Boggs create wildly illustrative music by destroying vocal and instrumental music that they record. What seperates this studio-foolery from other projects aimed at making beauty out of destroyed sounds is the way the chaos is controlled and shaped perfectly. D?ormais compose songs, plan their moves ahead of time, and give their dying sounds life by stacking them together and on top of each other in meaningful ways. It doesn't hurt that all the drum, piano, string, and vocal parts were recorded by the group and then disassembled and rearranged by the same people. Regardless of the process, the music is absolutely gorgeous. Bits and pieces of slide guitar, piano, and acoustic strumming cascade and flow as one stream of music with each instrument sliding above and submerging beneath the surface. Violins rattle, pop, hum, and echo throughout the background creating the illusion that this music must have been created in a cathedral dedicated to dead and dying instruments and compositions long abandoned by their composers. The mass of sound is glowingly beautiful and never seems to repeat or ever hints at any patterns that it may be based on. The creation of the music must've been a long and painful process as no two songs sound alike and each features a variety of instrumentation used in various manners. "To Sing Before Going to Sleep" is particularly good example of what can be done with a well-written song and an ear for space, silence, and timbres. It drifts so elegantly with mysterious female vocals nearly crying out from the slow flow of crystalline guitar picking and howling, unidentifiable instruments. Each song sounds as if every second were random, but the result is so perfect that I think it must've been planned that way. Iambroken... is a blueprint for what can be done with glitchy sounds and a bit compositional patience. Of course defective sounds can be gorgeous, but they're magnificent when composed and arranged in a way that feels familiar. In all reality, however, it's truly alien.


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